J. Mendel's Gilles Mendel Reveals How He Dressed 6 Actresses for the Emmys

Gilles Mendel Portrait - P 2012
Getty Images

Gilles Mendel Portrait - P 2012

The New York-based designer talks to THR about how the red carpet "informs" his future designs and what surprised him about Taylor Swift the most.

Gilles Mendel came to L.A. for just one day, to show his resort 2012/2013 collection for the 3rd annual Autumn Party produced by Rochelle Gores Fredston, to benefit Childrens' Institute Inc. -- which is already the biggest-grossing Autumn Party so far, it was sold out a while back.

THR caught up with one of American's best designer of eveningwear to talk about how he's become SUCH a Hollywood staple. Six women wore J. Mendel gowns to the Emmys. That's got to be a record of a one-designer showing at a Hollywood awards show. Jessica Lange, Anna Gunn, Emily Van Camp, Kat Dennings, Jennifer Westfeldt and Jena Malone all floated down the carpet in J. Mendel ethereal evening creations. 

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The Hollywood Reporter: How on earth did you wind up dressing six actresses for this year's Emmy Awards? And they all actually looked different.

Gilles Mendel: We were very excited to see that - and believe it or not, it was really quite surprising. I chalk it up to a combination of things: we are one of the design houses in America that is very conscious of Old Hollywood glamour -- the old world. We're not trendy. The red carpet is very much reflective of that world. Women want to wear dresses that flatter their bodies, but are also light and comfortable. I'm making everything lighter -- but there is still corsetting in these dresses, there is still shape. Also, we are proactive about dressing stars. I will send them sketches, I work with them, I really enjoy collaborating with them and their stylists. If they have particular needs and ideas, then we have a real dialogue.

THR: It does seem that J. Mendel is one label that manages to be sexy and ethereal at the same time -- a rare feat. 

Mendel: I play with material – depending also who’s going to be wearing it. Some want the body of a dress body tight and fim, other dresses are much more softer and less constructed. So those are my two silhouettes. Silhouette is something I'm very conscious of and study. I study the body to see how to flatter it. I like to make the lightest possible construction.

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THR: Does the red carpet wind up informing the rest of your work at all?

Mendel: Completely. The red carpet had taught me a lot – and a dress being seen in three dimensions, how the camera sees it and lights it up – it taught me that's it's very necessary for the woman feel comfortable in it, she's wearing it a long time. My next  collection has structure on top, and more lightless on the bottom. Most women want to feel secure in their dress.

THR: What are your color predictions for this coming awards season?

Mendel: Regarding color – at the end of the day, women want to wear color, it's not about black and hardness right now. Jewel tone colors are the most complimentary to the woman – and there has to be a special chemistry between the woman and the dress. The right chemistry, right color – it's not about blue for everyone, or red. It's great to see them all wearing colors that flatter them specifically.

THR: Taylor Swift is one star who seems to be wearing your clothes all the time lately. That white suit for the MTV Video Awards was not the J. Mendel norm.

Mendel: Yes, we have an ongoing dialogue with Taylor Swift. For such a young lady to have such a great sense of what she wants to wear is unusual. I'm very excited to be part of the process. We really collaborate with her – when she has a new idea in her mind. She had the idea of doing suiting and we did her first suit. She definitely has a strong point of view – I like to work with creative people, who have a mindset. When they're insecure, very much more difficult. They don’t trust you.  

THR: How did it feel to do a suit?

Mendel: Taylor was an inspiration, I put one of the suits in the new collection. This one is in an orange print material. Usually, collections influence the red carpet, but this was the reverse.